Skip to main content

Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

See other formats

112                               LIFE   OF
his name,—he was something wonderful, mysterious,
and remarkable, and they thronged to see the man,
who had discovered a new world. His brother Wil-
liam wrote to a friend in Vienna, who considered
every intellectually-uncommon development as some-
thing demoniacal:—"Alexander is really a ($H&i8-
samce/ and has gained a new kind of glory by his
lectures. They are insurpassaTble. He is always* the
same; and it is still one of the principal features of
his character to have a peculiar timidity and uiidi^-
niable anxiety in the mode of his appearance/"
These lectures of Humboldt were also new and
remarkable., in respect of the position he took towards
the people. For, while other learned men.,, whose
social position is always higher than that of the
people, nearly all, in their scientific and academic
pride, did not*deem it worth their while to dissemi-
nate their knowledge among the people, whom it
must,, ultimately., most benefit; while they generally
keep their learning as the property and mystery of a
caste, and interchange it among themselves; while
they consider it infra dig. and degrading for a man
of science to popularize his knowledge ; Alexander
von Humboldt set them the noble example^ that a
baron, a chamberlain, a privy councillor, and confi-
dential adviser of his king, did riot consider it beneath
his rank and dignity to appear publicly as the teacher
of his favourite science 3 he showed that a true man
of science does not attach himself to an exclusive
caste, and that all considerations of birth, rank, and
title, are as nothing in the high service of science.
And thus, Alexander, in the impulses of his heart
and of his mindr fulfilled the noble duty which the
mentally gifted man owes to his people—of bestowing
on them, and instructing them with,, the rich treasury
of his knowledge and experience, thereby raising
them nearer to himself.
William von Humboldt had waited for the termi-
nation of Alexander's course of lectures, in April.,
1828, before he started on his last journey-, which led